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Michael J. Love
(360) 477-6670

By Pam Bishop

Purebred rescue is a person or group of people specializing in rescuing one breed of dog. They are especially knowledgeable about their chosen breed and care about their welfare. The dogs are often taken from public or private shelters. They may have been picked up as a stray by animal control or turned in by their owners. People give up their pets for many good and not so good reasons. Rescue also takes dogs directly from their owners when the owner can no longer keep the dog. When an owner dies, the family may turn the dog over to rescue for placement. There are many ways a dog may find his way into rescue.

The dogs that come to rescue are from all types of backgrounds. Some, through no fault of their own, find themselves without a home. An owner dies or moves somewhere and they feel they can't keep the dog or the dog is considered not suitable to the new home. Perhaps it was a cute puppy bought on impulse, with no thought of what it would be when it grew up. Often, temperament problems that could have been easily corrected when the dog was young were allowed to continue until the dog became a serious problem. Barking, biting, and not being housebroken are common problems. Many times it's just not the right breed of dog for that person or that particular family.

Dogs that come into purebred rescue are all spayed or neutered before placement so that none can be used for breeding in the future. This would only continue the problem of too many dogs that need new homes. A spayed or neutered dog is often healthier and usually will live longer. All shots are brought up-to-date on a rescue dog and a medical and temperament evaluation is done. Some come to rescue in terrible condition. Many were strays living in the street, and some come from neglectful or cruel homes. Long-coated dogs usually have not been groomed and are a mass of matted, dirty hair. Fleas, ear infections, and skin problems are common. The dogs are properly groomed and bathed by the rescue group workers or by professional groomers. They are checked for fleas, ticks, worms, and other parasites.

If possible, all medical work is done to get the dogs back on the road to a good, decent life with people that will love and care for them. They are also evaluated for their temperament. Will they be able to adjust to a new home? Will they be safe with children and other pets? There are many differences between breeds, including size and coat care, and activity level, for example. You need to find a dog that fits into your home and lifestyle.

A rescue worker tries to find out as much as possible about each new dog to help in finding him a new home. Some dogs will be wonderful pets as long as they are the only dog or the only pet. We look for the most appropriate home for each dog. Rescue dogs come in all sizes. Few are puppies, but most are 1- to 2-year-olds. Teenagers! Some are in their senior years, and these are the special ones. Perhaps their owner has died and left them alone. Often, older dogs still have many good years left. Usually if they have been with a senior, it is best to place them with a senior. What wonderful companionship this can be for a senior couple or widow or widower—to have a pet that is in the same place in his life as the owner is, able to receive lots of love, and enjoy his new home!

Rescue workers will ask many questions of you to find out the most about your situation and needs. They will then try to match you with the right breed and the right dog for your family. If the dog was a stray, they may not know that much about him. It means taking it slowly at first until you get to know each other. Most rescued dogs adjust fairly quickly and are happy to be in a home where they are loved and cared for. When you take a rescue dog, you are truly saving his life. If you choose a dog from a purebred rescue, be aware that this is a dog with a past. Take things slowly when you bring him into your life. Keep things quiet and try to establish a routine with him. He has had a life routine before, and that is his security. If it is known where he came from, it is easier. However, if he was a stray, we can only guess what type of life he had before he came into rescue. Be patient and caring with him, and he should settle into your new home in a few weeks.

Choose the breed of dog carefully. Look at many different breeds and find out as much as possible about that breed of dog. People are often drawn to a dog by its looks, but it is the temperament of the breed you must live with. A behavior that one person thinks is cute can be unacceptable to someone else. Make a list of behaviors you consider positive and negative. Do you want a very obedient dog or one with a free spirit attitude on life? Do you have other pets that the new dog must get along with? Consider the purpose for which the dog was bred and decide if that is going to fit into your lifestyle. Will the dog live primarily in the house or in the yard or both? Are you or a member of your family at home during the day? Some dogs do not do well left alone for long periods of time. Some may become destructive when not supervised. Young dogs have lots of energy and may need more attention than an older dog. How high and how secure your fence is can also determine the type of dog you should get. A wrought iron fence may hold an 80 pound dog very well, but an eight pound dog can walk right through it. These are all things you must consider when picking the right breed and the right dog for you and your family.

If you choose a purebred dog from rescue you are truly saving a life. Choose the breed and the individual dog with care, and understand your responsibility to this dog. A rescue dog can bring great joy to you and your family for many years to come.

Common Misconceptions About Rescue Groups

Myth: Rescue groups are so desperate to find homes for dogs that they should just give people whatever dog they want so they can help more dogs.

Truth: Rescue groups work to find the right home for a dog. There are many factors to consider when adopting out a dog to a family: What is the family's lifestyle, and does it match the needs of the dog? Some dogs are more sedate and would be fine with a family who has a small yard or who isn't as active. Other dogs, such as retrievers and other large breeds, require more exercise and will need a family with a large yard or someone who is prepared for going for long daily walks. Does the dog have special needs, health considerations, and is the family able to provide the care for the dog? Some dogs will need to take medications or have conditions that will require extra veterinary care. Is the family familiar with the particular breed of dog, and do they understand that particular dog's traits? Many dogs are given up by owners to shelters and rescues when their original owner was unaware of the needs and personality of the breed. Again, we want people to make informed decisions, and a good rescue will help them select a breed that matches their lifestyle and own personality. Is the family able to provide the training that the dog needs? Some dogs that enter rescue are already house trained and may have even had some obedience classes. However, most dogs will require instruction, and families should be ready to go to basic obedience and teach their dogs house manners. One major advantage of adopting a rescue dog over a puppy is that they are more focused and often more easy to train when they are older and more attentive. There are only a few of the things that a rescue considers when adopting out a dog. Our goal is always to make sure that the family is adequately prepared for the dog they have chosen, that they are able to make a lifetime commitment to the dog, and that the dog will be happy, safe, secure, and part of the family.

Myth: A rescue group is a great place to go to adopt a purebred puppy.

Truth: While rescues may very occasionally have pedigreed puppies or young dogs available, it is usually mixed breed puppies or purebred adult dogs that are typically available for adoption. The most common ages for dogs in rescue is 1 to 3 years. Dogs in this age are generally easier to train than puppies because they are older and more focused, more ready to please. In addition, rescues often have senior dogs (6 years or older) that also need homes. These dogs are especially wonderful to adopt—they are often fully housetrained, very loyal, and make great companions.

Myth: Rescues are a good place to give up a dog, especially if I'm in a rush to find it a home.

Truth: Rescues are typically staffed by just a handful of volunteers. These generous people often have full-time jobs and donate their time to helping dogs find homes. When a rescue is unable to assist immediately with picking up a dog or finding it a home, people sometimes assume that the rescue worker doesn't care. It isn't that they don't care, but rather that there simply aren't enough resources (time, foster homes, financial assistance) to help every person who has a dog to give up. Those needing assistance must be patient when working with rescue workers who are unpaid volunteers that give up most of their free time to help dogs in need. When contacting a rescue, allow a couple of days for them to get back to you.

Myth: Rescue people are just trying to make money. The dogs should be available for free. They shouldn't charge an adoption fee.

Truth: Rescues often have horrendous expenses. Veterinary care costs money. Many of the dogs that enter rescue have had little or no previous veterinary care. Most need to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped. In addition, rescues will provide medical care for any other conditions that a dog may have. Many of the dogs that enter rescue are "bought" from the shelter. Animal shelters do not allow rescues to take the dogs for free; there are fees that must be paid to the shelter in order to take the dog into a rescue program. There are also transportation costs, phone bills, and other miscellaneous expenses involved in rescue, and adoption fees and donations help to cover these costs.

Myth: Rescues will help find a home for my dog that has bitten or been aggressive with people. My dog just needs a home without children.

Truth: Rescues usually do not take dogs that have demonstrated aggressiveness toward humans. There simply are not enough resources to care of non-aggressive dogs, much less dogs that have bitten or tried to bite. In addition, if a rescue knowingly adopts a dog to someone when the dog is known to have been aggressive, the adopting family may pursue legal action against the rescue organization. The liability in placing a dog that has bitten is simply too great. The best thing to do if you own a dog that has tried to bite is to consult your veterinarian to rule out medical causes for the behavior. Ask for a referral to a behaviorist. If you have consulted with the above specialists and your dog is still at risk of biting, the most humane thing is to have your dog gently put to sleep. Do not take your dog to the shelter when you know he/she is aggressive. The shelter will not knowingly adopt out an aggressive dog. The separation from you is very traumatic for your dog, and it is much kinder to put your dog to sleep than to abandon him/her at the shelter where he/she will certainly be euthanized at the end of the required hold period.

Myth: Rescue groups will go in my neighbor's yard and take their neglected dog in order to find it a new home.

Truth: Legitimate rescues will not violate the law and "dog-nap." If you see a dog that you feel is being neglected, call your local animal control. However, understand that often animal control is unable to assist except in the most extreme cases of neglect involving lack of food, water or shelter. If you have already called animal control, another option is to ask your neighbors if they still want the dog. Often these people are glad to have someone offer to assist their dog, and will gladly give the dog to you. If they do still want the dog and you yourself decide to "dog-nap," you may help the first dog but generally people like this will replace the dog with yet another that will be tied up outside or otherwise neglected.

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